I've Been Roofied 2x And I Think Anti-Rape Nail Polish Is Genius

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woman drinking a cocktail

When I was in my early 20s, I enjoyed the club scene and all of the flirtation and exhibitionism that goes with it. At the time, there was extensive media coverage on the increase in date rape drug usage, but I thought it could never happen to me. I was wrong.

Although I often went out with groups of female friends, I also enjoyed the thrill of exploring new venues on my own. I never felt threatened. After all, what could happen when I was surrounded by a throng of people?

This false sense of security led to my downfall on one of those solo expeditions when a couple of men began vying for my attention. I was on my second gin and tonic when I started feeling woozy and a bit nauseous. The charming guy at my side suggested some "fresh air" and he helped me outside with his best bud following close behind.

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Perhaps I should have immediately realized something was wrong. Perhaps I was asking for it. After all, I didn't guard my drink with the fervor suggested by the news. My drinking habits were controlled and paced. I could hold my booze with the best of them — until that horrible night.

I have fuzzy memories of my 'rescuer' offering to drive me home with his buddy following in their car.

I remember throwing up next to a curb and being confused about how I could be so incredibly smashed after just two drinks when I usually drank up to eight cocktails in a night.  I remember my suitor smiling at me and saying we were going to have a 'good time' and — that's about it.

When I woke up in my own bed, I couldn't remember how I'd gotten home. I couldn't figure out why I was naked and uncovered. When I got up and went to the bathroom, when the realization dawned, I couldn't understand how this could have happened to me. How had I become a statistic? How had I become the 1 out of every 5 American women who has been the victim of rape?

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I took it hard — and blamed myself for being duped. I was embarrassed and horrified, so I never reported the incident. In this, I am not alone. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 60 percent of rapes are never reported to the police, and those that are rarely lead to a conviction.

Over the next 10 years, I subdued my partying ways and NEVER left my drink unattended. My paranoia about a repeat incident affected my life and my relationships, but I kept up my guard. I vowed it would never happen to me again.

And then I was invited to a posh cooking event at one of the most elite kitchens in town. Now in my early 30s, I had relaxed my vigilance some. After all, the nightclubs had been replaced with more elegant options. Even so, this event was the last place I thought I'd need to watch my back.

The food was decadent and had been paired with a lovely Merlot. There were only about 15 of us in attendance and the chef and I were the only singles in the crowd. At the close of the event, a diplomat in attendance invited us to continue socializing at her house.

Once there, the chef brought me a glass of wine and sat next to me on the couch.

I hadn't taken more than a couple of sips from the glass when the symptoms I'd experienced a decade earlier hit with full force. I immediately knew what had happened. When the chef offered to take me home, everything clicked into place and I locked myself in the bathroom where I was violently ill. The hostess came to my aid and I explained my fears through a fog of dizzy confusion.

The following morning, I woke up fully clothed in her spare bedroom with the door locked from the inside. This time I had been lucky.

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The thing that gets me is that there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). That means that someone somewhere in the United States is being sexually assaulted every one to two minutes. How is this happening? And what can we do to stop it?

Knowledge is power.

There are several local and national organizations that work on expanding outreach programs to bring a heightened awareness of this issue to the public. But it's not enough.

There are several local and national organizations that work on expanding outreach programs to bring a heightened awareness of this issue to the public. But it's not enough.

I recently became aware of the efforts of four male students at North Carolina State University who have taken the next step in preventing sexual assault on women. They have engineered a nail polish that changes colors when it comes in contact with date rape drugs (benzodiazepines) such as Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB.

The product, Undercover Colors, is still in development, but it offers hope and empowerment for women hoping to survive the murky business of being social without being drugged into submission.

Bitter backlash on Undercover Colors points out a few of the potential downfalls associated with date rape drug detection products.

The main argument claims it's impossible to create a single product able to detect all of the hundreds (or thousands) of legal and illegal drugs —ranging from benzodiazepines to over-the-counter sleeping pills — that could potentially be used to dope an unsuspecting mark. (I find this argument interesting as Undercover Colors isn't touted as a miracle safety net for each and every drug available in the world. Their targeted detection is quite specific.)

Another directs the blame at men who ply women (especially in the underage and collegiate crowd) with excessive alcohol.

Snarky critics, speaking out against Undercover Colors (and other date rape detection tools), finish up their commentaries with the overarching, blithe statement that potential victims shouldn't have to worry about protecting themselves from sexual assault, that the real solution rests on teaching men to respect women – especially women too incapacitated to offer resistance to ardent overtures.
I disagree.

It's common knowledge that there's no such thing as a fool-proof product, but at least these enterprising students are offering the public something. If Undercover Colors makes it through the developmental stage, the product will offer potential victims an opportunity to make a conscientious stand against sexual assault.

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On top of that, I would imagine that a woman (or a man) who decided to wear the drug-detecting nail polish would also have taken the time to learn other safety techniques such as an awareness of his or her surroundings and his or her alcohol intake.

I would also suspect that an appreciation of the product by mainstream media might even polish off a few potential perpetrators. And that's something to talk about. 

For more information about sexual assault statistics and prevention, contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, you can get assistance and advice at the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673).

Madeleine Shade is a Yourtango contributor.

This article was originally published in 2020.